It is shown, that the sensitivity of the effective refractive index on the cladding index in evanescent optical waveguide sensors, can be larger than unity. This implies that the attenuation of a guided wave propagating in a waveguide immersed in an absorptive medium can be made larger than that of a free-space wave propagating through the same medium. The conditions and physical explanation for this puzzling behavior are identified and as a practical application, an absorption sensor, based on a suspended silicon slab waveguide,is proposed where the sensitivity is enhanced by a factor of 1.35.


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